February 02 2009

Cris Dopher

“Keep moving forward.”
At four years old, I was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. With my boyish good looks and southern Californian residency, I was chosen to be the poster child for the San Diego chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. My face was put on CFF posters that were distributed throughout the foundation and greater CF community. Before I entered the sixth grade, my dad moved our family to Missouri, where I first learned the importance of exercising from CF doctors at the University of Missouri Columbia Hospital.
Unable to play sports during my first years of high school after a farming accident crushed my ankle, I found my passion in theatre. Soon I was designing sets as well as acting in my high school plays. After graduating from college, I attended graduate school at NYU and received my Masters in Fine Arts.
In the years following grad school, I noticed a progression in the severity of my disease. Last March, when I was 36 years old, I struggled with another exacerbation. Climbing a flight of stairs left me breathless, and I began to fear the worst. I started exercising daily and my IVs began to work – so I slowly got stronger, both mentally and physically.
Even though it still remains a challenge to take the appropriate amount of enzymes every day, and eat as my doctors instruct, I am much more compliant these days and rarely miss treatments. Now that I have CF-related diabetes, I am even more careful about my health. I believe that the importance of compliance is the equivalent of how much belief you have in yourself and in your future.
Now, at 37, I work as a professional lighting and set designer for department stores. Having CF and working as a set designer does put limitations on my exposure to dust, but never on my creativity. I spend my free time volunteering and fundraising for BEF, including running for Team Boomer annually. Making contributions to BEF allows me to stay connected to the CF community. All in all, I keep moving forward – in my work, in my relationships, and most importantly, in my healthcare.